Don’t Fear the Robots, and Other Lessons From a Study of the Digital Economy

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L. Rafael Reif, the president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, delivered an intellectual call to arms to the university’s faculty in November 2017: Help generate insights into how advancing technology has changed and will change the work force, and what policies would create opportunity for more Americans in the digital economy.That issue, he wrote, is the “defining challenge of our time.”Three years later, the task force assembled to address it is publishing its wide-ranging conclusions. The 92-page report, “The Work of the Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines,” was released on Tuesday.The group is made up of M.I.T. professors and graduate students, researchers from other universities, and an advisory board of corporate executives, government officials, educators and labor leaders. In an extraordinarily comprehensive effort, they included labor market analysis, field studies and policy suggestions for changes in skills-training programs, the tax code, labor laws and minimum-wage rates.Here are four of the key findings in the report:Most American workers have fared poorly.It’s well known that those on the top rungs of the job ladder have prospered for decades while wages for average American workers have stagnated. But the …

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